How We Farm!

The goal is to farm our land sustainably so our ancestors can keep farming the land for generations to come. For us this means, reducing the amount of un-renewable resources as possible while ensuring we do not negatively effect the environment around us. Yes, we still use diesel in our tractors, but believe the philosophy around organic production is much more sustainable in the long run than current conventional agricultural’s dependence on many synthetically produced and mined inputs.

Nutrition

Nutrition is supplied in a couple ways. #1) is by creating a healthy environment for micro organisms within the soil.  Healthy Soils thriving with Microriza can capture much of a crops nitrogen needs directly from the air.

#2) The use of  Green Manures before high feeding crops such as potatoes is a great way of boosting Soil Nitrogen levels to achieve high yielding crops.

3) Incorporating Organic Fertilizers.  Not all the required nutrients can be captured by microrhiza or is available from plowing in crops.  Fortunately there are some great suppliers of Organic Nutrients.

Pest Control

We are fortunate in our isolated location in Central Alberta for most of the crops we grow.  Having very few vegetable farms near by goes a long way in reducing the chance of disease & insects traveling from near by farms, however; winter temperatures that can drop below -35 does most of the work.  To put it simply, most insects can not survive our winters.  There are a couple exceptions, including the cabbage butterfly which thrives on plants in the Brassica Family.  Fortunately there are Organic products for the Cabbage butterfly used in both conventional and organic production that we are able to control the insect with.

Organic Certificatoin

We will be obtaining our Organic Certification through Pro-Cert.  Pro-Cert is a Canadian based organic certifying agency which has been operating since 1999.  The current Canadian Organic Standards, which Pro-Cert & all certifying agencies & Organic Farms adhere to was passed in 2006.  Canadian Organic Standards.  Another useful document for Organic Farms is the Permitted Substances List which dictates what products are allowed in Organic Production.  Although we did not officially begin our Organic Transition with Pro-Cert until 2016, we have been following these codes of practices since 2009 in our market garden & 2015 in our Seed Potato Fields

Monitoring

The key all successful farms is knowing how plants perform.    Most of our Vegetables are grown in 1 acre plots, making it easy to identify nutritional, insect or other issues that may arise.  An added layer of Monitoring comes with Organic Certification.  Yearly our Certifying Body will make inspections of our farm, farming practices and record keeping.  These inspections are valuable to maintain our integrity as an Organic Farm.  We do have a third layer of monitoring on our farm as visitors are welcome to the farm throughout the season to enjoy our mazes, Upick & Farm Tours to see first hand how we are growing our crops.

We haven’t Always Farmed Organically

Well, we did, then we didn’t and now we are again. When the first of the Mills family, Tope, settled the land in 1921, it wasn’t called organic farming, it was just called farming . The first fertilizers to supplement nutrition & synthetic chemicals for pest, weeds and diseases were not introduced in this region until the late 1940’s. Our farm began using tractors and synthetic inputs as they came on the market not thinking of or being aware of any environmental impacts.
Only recently we became to realize the un-sustainability of relying on un-renewable resources to grow the food we produce. With our change away from many synthetically produced inputs, we are not expecting to change the industry. However, we can change our growing methods to be less reliant on un-renewable resources. Our goal is to be one of many farms that can be used as an example that food can be, once again, produced in a sustainable manner.

The Move back to Organic?

John Mills the latest generation to farm the land, was first introduced to Organic Production while attending the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (now Dalhousie University) in 2004. There along with his studies in vegetable production he took 4 organic production courses offered by the Organic Centre of Agriculture which is based at the college.
Once returning to the farm John started growing Upick vegetables & mazes on the farm which was at that time farmed conventionally. Finally in 2008 the family felt it was time to start putting the organic lessons he learned into practice.

Why has it taken 8 years?

Transitioning a farm to Organic Production can occur all at once, or in stages.  It was decided that a more feasible transition would be first to learn and perfect growing the new crops added to the farm (mazes, veggies, livestock) and only then apply the lessons learned to the existing crops (grain & seed potatoes)

Resources

There are now many more college & university programs in Canada teaching Organic & Sustainable Production.  The Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada is a great place to start looking for information on courses, local organic organizations, events & conferences.